- Barolo, Piedmont, Italy
Fratelli Alessandria is a historic and beloved winery in the village of Verduno. The estate, initially known as Fratelli Dabbene, traces its first commercial wine release back to 1830. From 1870 on, after a marriage, it has been called Fratelli Alessandria.
Verduno has always played an important role in wine production, contributing to what we think of and love as Barolo today. Barolo had been a rustic, semi-sweet wine that did not keep or travel well. The House of Savoy, eventually Italy’s monarchy, owned Castello di Verduno and chose G.B. Burlotto as its official wine supplier. They installed their royal enologist, General Paolo Francesco Staglieno, who—by improving sanitary conditions, keeping barrels covered and topped up, and insisting on long aging—helped transform Barolo into a dry wine, the “wine of Kings.”
Fratelli Alessandria was an active participant in these developments. An article from November 2, 1843, in the Gazzetta Ufficiale of the Associazione Agraria, an initiative of King Carlo Alberto, reports the two golden medals that the winery was awarded. First, “for the improvement in winemaking…and for the successful expeditions of their wines overseas.” The second one, obtained along with Count Camillo Benso Cavour (who would also become Italy’s first prime minister), reads: “for the best kept winery.”
Today, Gian Battista Alessandria, his wife Flavia, his brother Alessandro, and his son, Vittore, are the 7th and 8th generation of vignaioli at Fratelli Alessandria. They own 13ha of vines in Verduno and 2ha in Monforte d’Alba (in the cru of Gramolere). They have 3ha of undeveloped woodlands.
Verduno, though accounting for only 5% of production in the Barolo zone, has started to reclaim its historical stature, for good reason. Its vineyards are open and luminous. Its proximity to the Tanaro river has a mitigating effect, creating a steadier climate compared to other villages. The soils, while from the geological formation of the Laminated Marne di Sant’Agata Fossili, are particularly rich in manganese and magnesium, blue-grey to the naked eye, sparking elegant wines with a floral spiciness that is the village’s signature. The cru of Monvigliero, Verduno’s most important, and its only cru that faces due south, undoubtedly has world-class personality and a track record for aging. Lastly, any discussion of Verduno would be incomplete without the mention of Pelaverga Piccolo, a grape variety which is exclusive to the village and makes semi-aromatic, peppery, light-colored wines that drive Piedmontese wine lovers crazy!
Fratelli Alessandria has been impervious to many of the fads that have swept the Barolo zone over the last couple decades. They’ve preferred to nurture Verduno’s uniqueness through organic farming (uncertified for now), native fermentations with temperature control, and, for the Barolos, long aging in large cask. This humble family and their wines have a clean, confident classicism that make them an undersung, but benchmark, producer.